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Poster: Alison OK Date: Aug 20, 2018 2:23pm
Forum: news Subject: The Guardian: Film in the public domain: here be buried treasures

Last week’s summery dip into the internet’s cinematic back catalogue reminded me that it’s been a while since I did a more thorough trawl through a vast streaming resource that even cinephiles frequently seem to forget is there: that humble old standby, the public domain. More major vintage cinema than you might think has trickled through to the unglamorous realm of expired intellectual property rights, and lurks in assorted dusty corners of the web waiting to be discovered or rediscovered at no cost. As I’ve written before, YouTube houses a lot of them in varying states of picture and sound quality: hunting them down is generally not a game for highly particular, Criterion-collecting film buffs.

But sometimes, when other avenues in search of a certain under-screened classic have run into dead ends, to see it in imperfect condition is better than to not see it at all, and online archives come to the rescue. A few years ago, I sang the praises of the Internet Archive, the somewhat fusty-looking but reliable granddaddy of all public domain collections, and it remains one of my regular fallbacks: its vast Movies section, features more than 23,000 videos – 6,000 of them feature films – and runs the gamut from Hollywood standards to lesser-known Charlie Chaplin shorts to second world war propaganda reels.

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